‘It will leave an awful, dark cloud over West Donegal’

Locals left wounded and emotional as four of their finest young men taken in one fell swoop

The scene of the tragic accident near Magheraroarty, Co Donegal where four young men lost their lives on Sunday night. Photograph: North West Newspix

The scene of the tragic accident near Magheraroarty, Co Donegal where four young men lost their lives on Sunday night. Photograph: North West Newspix

 

As the first real dusting of winter snow nestled on its hills and valleys, a cold stillness of grief and loss hung over West Donegal on Monday.

The people of this rugged and isolated area have grown used to the grim reality of road deaths.

But even the most steeled of locals were left wounded and emotional by the events which took four of their finest young men from them in one fell swoop.

Friends Mícheál Roarty (24) from Dunlewey, John Harley (24) from Falcarragh, Shaun Harkin (22) also from Falcarragh and Daniel Scott, from Gortahork, and also in his 20s, were killed instantly when the Toyota Corolla car they were travelling in left the road near Magheraroarty around 8.40pm.

The deaths of the four young men in the latest crash to claim multiple lives on Donegal’s roads has left people numb.

Several functions due to take place across the county, including the launch of the Donegal Tourism brochure, were cancelled as a mark of respect to those who died.

Prayers were said at local masses throughout the county while at Cloughaneely GAA Club on the outskirts of Falcarragh, a special meeting of wellbeing was held for those who were affected by the crash.

It’s devastating for four young lives to be taken so quickly and so tragically

Fr Seán Ó Gallchóir, parish priest in nearby Gortahork, said prayers at the meeting which was attended by about 25 people. “We reflected and said some prayers and the wellbeing officer at the club said if anybody needed help to contact him,” he said.

Mark of respect

Donegal County Council convened its regular meeting but adjourned after an hour as a mark of respect to the young men who died.

Cathaoirleach of the council, Cllr Seamus O’Domhnaill, who is from Falcarragh, said the four men who died were very active in their communities and deeply involved in all facets of sport in Cloughaneely and Gaoth Dobhair.

“It’s devastating for four young lives to be taken so quickly and so tragically. It will leave an awful dark, black cloud over West Donegal and one that won’t go away too easily.”

Cllr O’Domhnaill said the tragedy brings back devastation to many communities. “We thought we were getting over the road traffic collisions but unfortunately this brings it all back to bear for every family in the county that has lost somebody through a traffic collision or accident.

“Unfortunately there are four more families and wider communities that are affected. We must remember them, sympathise with them and be there for them into the future,” he said.

Clockwise from top left: Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott, John Harley and Mícheál Roarty were killed in a single-vehicle road crash in Co Donegal on Sunday night.
Clockwise from top left: Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott, John Harley and Mícheál Roarty were killed in a single-vehicle road crash in Co Donegal on Sunday night.

The principal of Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola in Falcarragh, Maeve Sweeney, said three of the four young men killed in the crash attended the school at different stages.

Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families at this time because it’s unimaginable what they’re going through at this moment

“Shaun went to Letterkenny IT, qualifying as an electrician, Daniel went to Letterkenny IT and he became a civil engineer – he was taking up a new post in Denmark within the next week – and John Harley would have gone to Sligo IT and he was also working as an electrician,” she said.

“It certainly is devastating for the whole school community this morning. It has been heart-wrenching. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families at this time because it’s unimaginable what they’re going through at this moment,” she added.

‘Very much a family’

She said one of the dead men “has a brother still attending the school and the others have cousins and friends here in the school. This is a small school, 460 students, it’s very much a family, it’s a community school, they would have been regarded as our family. They would have strong connections in the area.

“John Harley would have been captain of the local GAA team, as did Daniel, he played gaelic as well and Sean would have strong connections with the local golf team because he would have played golf, soccer and gaelic in our school.

“They took those gifts and talents with them into the local community as well while they were here. It’s a huge devastating impact for the GAA and the local soccer team.”

The road where the accident happened reopened on Monday afternoon and the car in which the dead men had been travelling was taken away for further examination by gardaí.

The community is now preparing for several funerals. John Harley’s remains will repose at his home in Carrowcannon from 11am on Tuesday. Removal will take place on Thursday to St Finian’s Church, Falcarragh for 1pm Mass with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

Shaun Harkin’s removal will take place on Tuesday from the Eternal Light Chapel of Rest, Mountain Top, Letterkenny at 1pm to his parents’ residence. He will be removed from there on Thursday for 10am Mass in Christ the King Church, Gortahork with burial afterwards in the adjacent cemetery.

Funeral details for the two other victims are expected to be released shortly.